30/04/2009 12:26 BST | Updated 22/05/2015 06:12 BST

Are Sympathy Pains For Real?

Periodically I've heard stories of women whose male partners suffered what have been deemed "sympathy pains" while the women were pregnant. These included everything from feeling mildly emotional to actually feeling like they were going through labour themselves when the mother-to-be's water broke and she went into actual labour. My husband never experienced such sympathy pains and I raise a skeptical eyebrow as to their existence, but people swear they're for real.

Question is, are they a physiological, biological reality, or are they just in the male head? My husband, when asked, responded that he merely felt the sympathetic desire to eat everything in sight. He didn't have sympathy cravings, per se, but his appetite easily matched mine while I was pregnant. He likes to joke about it, but it's true. Others swear they've experienced the pains, and that perhaps it comes from feeling like nothing can be done by the man, who is used to handling and resolving situations, to help the labouring woman. Seeing your spouse in the pain of her life is no cakewalk; being able to do essentially nothing about it is even worse. Perhaps psychologically, sympathy pains allow the man to go through the pain with the woman, so she doesn't have to do it alone.

According to one article I unearthed on the subject, though, there is a biological foundation for these feelings. Men with pregnant partners were shown to have an increased level of estrogen and a decreased level of testosterone in one test. Another study offered by (although more than a year old) was more specific. According to this report, men surveyed experienced everything from morning sickness to moodiness to toothaches as part of their sympathy pains. And, you know, that's exactly what any household needs--two people going through all the ridiculous things that happen when you become pregnant! The most common sympathy symptom was the stomach cramp.

What about you? Did you or your partner experience sympathy pains while pregnant? Or, was there any rather unusual behaviour from your partner that you attributed to the pregnancy?